Our pack grew quickly, with the addition of a Hound puppy and a tiny Amstaff puppy whose litter was left in a box at the dumpsters.  We fostered those guys and in the end, we couldn’t let Cadpig go.  Zato pretty much raised her, and she is the black and white girl you see in the pictures.  Then I got the idea of starting a dog rescue, which we did.  It operated for five years, and in that time a lot of pups came and went to good homes.  And right in the middle of it all was Zato.  He was so good with the fosters – the playful, the timid, the injured, and especially the puppies.  He was good as gold to them all.  We even had a dog who became aggressive and attacked Zato (I jumped in pretty fast so he wasn’t injured), but he never deviated from his sweet self.  One of my favorite memories is when a local church donated food to the rescue’s community pet food pantry project and Zato and Richard went to speak to the congregation.  Zato stood up on the back of the pew while people petted him and the minister spoke.

Zato & Richard with pet food pantry donations!

When we decided to close the rescue so we could do other things, life slowed down a little bit.  Our pack had grown again with dogs who didn’t get adopted!  And there was Zatoichi, the elder statesman, the gentle leader of the pack.

We moved to the mountains, which he loved (especially watching the deer!) and life was good.  After almost two years of this peaceful period, he started to limp.  We thought he had hurt his paw.  He acted like it was his paw.  Or arthritis.  Or something OTHER than the horror that would be revealed four months later.

It was about the fourth vet visit, when he began carrying his paw. I had it figured out – yep, HAD to be arthritis.  But when the vet again examined him and moved his shoulder, he let out a cry that I’d never heard before.  It broke my heart.  The vet’s face clouded over and said they needed to get an x-ray.  Here I sit, oblivious, oh sure I said…and played with my phone while I waited. When they brought Zato back in, I said, “Well, little bud, I guess we need to cut your leg off!”.   The vet didn’t laugh.  He closed the door and when he turned to face me, I realized he had tears in his eyes.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the visit.  There was something about amputation and chemo would give him four months, maybe, and if we did nothing the pain would force our hand within two weeks.  I was crying and mumbled something about I wouldn’t do that.  I think I called Richard from the car on the way home.  I think I did.  I got home and cried and screamed and may have actually thrown some things.  I collapsed in a heap and realized there was nothing I could do.

I could see he was in pain.  I could see it in his eyes.  I read enough to know how bad it would get.  I looked around on this site briefly but never posted.  I couldn’t do that “to him”.  I was going to call the vet and ask him to come the next day but then, out of the blue, something happened.  I got mad.  Really mad.  And then, on the tail end of that, I got determined.  I decided that this was not going to be his end.  So I researched options.  That’s how we ended up in Richmond at the Advanced Radiation Treatment Center, where relief came fast and the people have hearts of gold.  Now we are at the end of what radiation can do.  But he’s not done.  Which means we’re not, either.

So that’s Zato’s life, summed up in three posts.  There aren’t enough hours, space and words to convey the many moments, the happiness, the uniqueness, and the qualities that make our dogs special.   That make him special.  And now we wait.  For tomorrow.

I am afraid. I am hopeful.  I am still in denial to a degree.  I feel like this is the right thing to do.  I look forward to telling you, very soon, how well he is doing.  I pray that is the case.  In the meantime, I would appreciate all good thoughts sent his way. I put this slide show together with pictures from various points in his life. I wanted to pay tribute to him, for all he’s given to me, as we face whatever lies ahead.